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By Gabrielle.

It’s always fun to start the week with a giveaway — and there are Four winners on this one! That’s right, I have 4 prize packages up for grabs, each one with at least 9 items! And each of the items is something we featured in the gift bags at the Design Mom Book Tour stops.

As you know, there were Design Mom Book Parties across the country, and at each event, the gift bags were different — the number of items, and the items themselves. But the thing they had in common is that every bag was awesome!

Of course, there are so many readers who couldn’t attend the tour stops, but I wanted to make sure everyone got a chance to join in the fun. So I’ve been saving a whole bunch of items from the gift bags, and I’ve put together 4 big prize packages!

If you win one of the 4 gift bags, you’ll find a 9-item mix of the following items inside:

Gift Bag Image 1

My Mind’s Eye metallic banners, felt flowers from Blumen Zoo, Start Creative Doodle Books, Lazer cut jewelry from Bon Mot, Prints from Three Letter BirdsPetit Puzzles from Petit Collage.

Gift Bag Image 2

Modern Urbio pots, bowties and hair bows by Roscoe & Sage, Honest Hand Sanitizer, GiantSuper deluxe Flash Cards, Ancestor print from Light & Ink, Oakland-themed cards by Noteify.

Gift Bag Image 3

Wrappily wrapping paper, Hello Shiso accessories, Necklaces from Scout & DaughtersWoven Pear Socks, baby scarves, booties, mittens, socks and hats from MimiTensEeboo pipe cleaners.

See what I mean by awesome? So much good stuff! To enter the giveaway, check out some of the awesome prizes and leave a comment below. Four winners will be announced on Thursday. Good luck!

P.S. — Thanks to everyone who has been so supportive of my book. I truly appreciate your feedback — every comment, every Amazon review, and every email. Thank you!

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Lisa, Sandra, Joanne and Dawn are the lucky winners. Thanks for playing!

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A Few Things

May 29, 2015

Iris Award Red Carpet Gabrielle Blair

By Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. This was such a good week! I have loved (and to continue to love) your comments on my post about “going off script”. It’s so delightful to read about your paths to higher education. The sheer variety of experiences is inspiring! So thank you for chiming in.

I also feel like this is the first week in a long time where I started to feel like I was back on my usual schedule. I loved it! All these years later and I still love blogging. Which reminds me, something really wonderful happened to me weeks ago, but my schedule has been so nuts, that I think I’m just processing it now. While I was at the Mom 2.0 Summit, I received such an honor — I was given the Iris Award for Blog of the Year!

Iris Award Gabrielle Blair

Holy moly. This was completely unexpected. In fact, I was at the very back of the room eating dinner — I had presented an award earlier and assumed I was done with stage duties for the evening. When my name was called, it took me a bit to realize what was happening. I was so slow to respond they thought I must be out of the room on a bathroom break and sent someone to find me. Hah!

As I walked to the stage, people whispered such kind things to me, and as I passed Whit Honea, he urged me to walk slowly and take it all in. I was super emotional — I started crying before I even got to the microphone. I don’t remember much of what I said that evening as I accepted the award (I wish I had a video!), but I remember naming each of my kids and Ben Blair, and the next day, I saw a tweet quoting me as I ended with something like: Parenting got a lot better for all of us, when blogging came to be.

Another  lovely thing: While I was at the microphone, Laurie Smithwick texted Ben Blair and told him about the award, so when I got back to my seat and looked at my phone, there were a bunch of texts from Ben and the kids congratulating me and cheering me on. I started crying all over again, and quickly snuck out to the hallway so I could call them.

Blog of the Year! What a night!!

Of course, any award is fun to receive, but an award like this, where I was acknowledged by my peers, means so much to me. I really did feel so honored. Thanks for letting me tell you about it.

And now, back to our regular programming. Here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- A report from my dear friend Laura Mayes who lives in the flood plain in Central Texas. (Plus a list of how you can help!)

- Sketching Sleeping Beauty. Thanks, Maude.

- A local florist purchased 2 very run down houses in Detroit for $500. Her plan is to fill the house with flowers for a weekend in October, responsibly tear them down and rebuild a flower farm on the land. Thanks, Julie.

- Make your own slate cheese board for $3!

- Motherhood in the Upper East Side. Have you lived there? Do you think this is accurate?

- Airplane passengers as explained by their pants. (Also, did you see the McSweeney’s kickstarter?)

- A comic strip about privilege.

- Dear Teen Me — a list of 5 boys not to kiss.

- American’s oldest active park ranger.

- Living room before and after with built-in shelves.

- Junk food looking fancy.

- Wow! The San Francisco Chronicle published a two-page feature about my book. Awesome!

I hope you have a fantastic weekend. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already!

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — You can see tons of images from the Iris Awards ceremony and the Mom 2.0 conference here. One behind the scenes side note: My arms and legs were totally covered with poison oak during the conference, so finding a dress that would cover me without looking too wintery (it was like 90 degrees at the conference) was a challenge! But I found the red dress on Rent the Runway and it worked perfectly. Also, the photo at top is me and Jeannine Harvey — she is one of my favorite people, and she also won an award that night for her excellent work with the One Campaign.

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Graduation Party!

May 28, 2015

Ideas for a simple graduation party.

Photos and text by Gabrielle.  //  Get their dorm room ready. Create a registry at Target for your college-bound grad.

Since Ralph has officially finished high school, we thought it would be fun to have a little party to celebrate. He has worked so dang hard over these last few years, and of course we want to demonstrate in any way we can how proud we are of him.

So over the weekend, we put together a Graduation party. We kept it simple and just invited family. We decorated and talked about Ralph’s accomplishments — with cheering! And talked about what’s next. Since Ralph didn’t have a graduation ceremony, marking this transition with a family gathering felt especially important.

Ideas for a simple graduation party. Ideas for a simple graduation party.

Graduation and college is clearly on my mind. In fact, this has turned into a college-themed week. On Tuesday we talked about finishing high school early.  On Wednesday we talked about 529plans. And today, I want to tell you about the graduate registry program I just learned about from Target. I think it’s so smart!

Ideas for a simple graduation party.

It works just like a wedding registry or baby registry, but you fill it with items your student will need when he or she heads to school. Stuff for a dorm room like a tablet or speaker (that’s what we gave Ralph), or items for furnishing a first apartment like a futon or small fridge.

Even if you don’t have a graduate at your house, I’m betting you’ll be sending gifts to graduating nieces or nephews. And this registry makes it simple — one link and you can find everything on their college list — tech gadgets, bedding, kitchen appliances, and school supplies.

Ideas for a simple graduation party. Gift ideas for graduates!

I’m a total fan of buying gifts from registry lists. I love giving a gift that I know the recipient really wants or needs. I also think it’s fun to see what’s on any given person’s registry, and I love that it eliminates the guess work. It feels good, knowing I’m not wasting money on a gift they won’t actually use.

As a parent, I like the idea of making a graduate registry for my kids for lots of reasons, but one particular thing that appeals is using it as a perfect opportunity to help them with more life training — walking through a store and discussing what their needs will actually be at college. Will they need an iron? Do they know how to iron? Will they need a toilet brush? Do they know how to use a toilet brush? It’s also a way to help them picture the actual transition of move-in day and what supplies they’ll want to have ready, so that they can unpack and get to know roommates and not have to run around town on last-minute errands.

All that to say, the invention of graduate registries seems like a brilliant move to me.

Gift ideas for graduates! cupcake smile

What’s your take on registries? Do you ever shop from them when you’re buying gifts? And have you ever created a registry for yourself? I distinctly remember creating our wedding registry almost 20 years ago. It was the first time I really started imagining married life — what towels we would use and the pots and pans we’d cook with. It made the whole thing feel much more real. How about you? I’d love to hear your stories!

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world map and hanging chair

By Gabrielle. Photos by Kristen Loken for Design Mom.

You know what I’m super excited about? Now that most of my book responsibilities are complete, I’ve been able to turn my attention back to projects in our home. I’m so happy about this! I feel like our house has been on pause for months and months. The room I’m looking at first is the Family Room. At our house, the family functions as the TV room, the music room (you can see our music nook here), and the playroom.

I’ve been working on it little by little, and am happy to say it’s about 70% done! I’m not ready to show the whole room yet, but I thought it would be fun to share this little corner, and talk about what’s still on my list.

world map and hanging chair

This corner is a happy spot. First, the hanging chair is a total magnet for everyone who enters the room. What is it about hanging chairs? Maybe it’s that they are sisters to swings, and they seem like that could have been a toy in an earlier life. : ) Whatever it is, as soon as I saw the super high ceilings in the room, I knew I wanted to add a hanging chair. It gives permission for the whole room (and everybody in it) to relax.

The little red podium is also a draw. We’ve had that podium since our first apartment in New York. I bought in used on ebay. I thought it was full-size when I made the purchase and was completely surprised when the box arrived and it was kid-sized! But over the years, it’s ended up being a perfect addition to our playroom. The kids use it to practice presentations for school and church, they use it for pretend play, and it comes in handy for family meetings as well. When I first bought it, it the finish was dark wood stain, and when we moved to Colorado, I painted it fire-engine red.

world map and hanging chair

The highlight of the corner is probably the colorful world map. I love this map! I ordered it from Pop & Lolli (a many-year sponsor of this blog). It’s the extra large version. The house I grew up in had a world map in the family room, so this feels familiar to me, but I like that this version is very child-like and friendly. As you can see, instead of drawn geographic or political lines, the shapes are created from illustrations and objects that reflect each region. Very cute! And it’s made of a sort of vinyl fabric that you can reposition and reuse, so if we ever want to take it down and move it to another room, or maybe donate it to a classroom, we can.

So what’s next for this room? Three big things: 1) I’m still working on area rugs, 2) I just had a bid to replace our sliding patio door (which is wonky and doesn’t close properly) into a French doors, and 3) I think we’re going to order a couch from a design-your-own-sofa shop. Have you ever used one before? I haven’t, but there are several in the Bay area. The one I’ve talked to is called Decorium, and apparently I can have full design direction over shape and dimensions, so in theory we can order something that fits the available space perfectly.

Now it’s your turn. Do you have a family room that’s separate from your living room? Or perhaps you have minimum square footage and combine those rooms into one? And have you ever ordered a sofa from a design-your-own shop? If yes, I’d love to hear any advice you have from your experience! Also, have you ever considered a hanging chair or swing in your house (or do you have one now)? And what are your thoughts on a podium as a piece of residential furniture?

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National 529 Day!

May 27, 2015

National 529 Day is tomorrow!

By Gabrielle.

In December, we talked about whether or not we paid our own way through college. I LOVED the discussion. So when ScholarShare reached out to do a 5-post series about saving for college, I was all in! For this first post, let’s talk about 529 savings plans. The timing is perfect, because Friday is National 529 Day! And to celebrate, ScholarShare is hosting a 529 Day matching promotion, “You Start It, We Match It.” ScholarShare will match your $50 opening balance to make it $100!

So what is a 529 plan? You know how a 401(k) plan is for retirement savings? Well, a 529 is similar, but intended for college savings, and they give you an important tax advantage — there is no income tax or capital gains tax on the earnings as long as it is used for education.

If you’re intimidated about saving for college, a 529 plan is an encouraging way to go, because you can start with a very small deposit. And we all know that where saving is concerned, simply starting is half the battle. When you’re ready to withdraw funds, they can be used at schools across the nation, and it’s not just about paying for tuition. Funds can be used for all sorts of educational expenses, like books and fees, or supplies and equipment — even certain room and board costs!

Another nice thing is that anyone can open a 529 account. Or gift one. Which means Grandpa can open an account for his granddaughter if he’s so inclined. Or if you’ve opened an account for your child, relatives and friends can add funds to it as well — such a good option when Aunt Sally asks what to get your son for his birthday.

Personally, one of the big reasons I like 529 plans, is that once the money is in the savings account, I’m not tempted to use it for other expenses, because I know I won’t get the tax benefit unless I reserve it for education costs. It sort of makes the funds out-of-sight-out-of-mind.

If you’ve been wanting to start a college savings fund, let this be the kick-in-the-pants you need to make it happen. Put $50 in and instantly turn it into $100! Every dollar counts. And even more than the amount of money you initially deposit, knowing you made the first step on the saving-for-college path feels so dang good.

Want to take advantage of the matching promotion? Open a ScholarShare 529 College Savings Account on Friday, May 29th and ScholarShare will match $50 of the initial deposit. Read details here to find out if you qualify.

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, shared in partnership with ScholarShare.

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By Gabrielle.

This is such a fabulous story. Even if you only look at the pictures, Senna’s home is a true and beautiful reflection of what it’s like to live with kids. I couldn’t stop smiling at all the little details in the North home that scream happiness and togetherness. (Of special note is her son’s bedroom at the moment, devoid of furniture except for his bed because the kid is a climber! Anyone empathize?!)

But if you live for these interviews, this one is overflowing with hows and whys and different ways of looking at this parenting/working balance we all crave. Plus, there are lovely adoption experiences, a dad who works it into his schedule to spend one weekday with the kids, and oh, did Senna’s beginning tug at my heart! I said it once, but it deserves another mention: This is such a fabulous story. I really hope you enjoy it as much as I do! Welcome, Senna!

Hello, everyone! We are Senna, Eric, Iliana (Illy), and Evan. Eric and I are family physicians and own our own clinic. Illy is six and just finishing kindergarten, and Evan is three and will be starting preschool next year.

I’ll start with Evan because even though he is the littlest, I’d say he has the most exuberant and loudest personality of all of us! He is definitely three. “I want to do it myself!” is a common phrase around here. When we go to a coffee shop, he always ends up charming someone with his smiles and laugh. He really works a room! Ever since we can remember, he has loved music. He plays the drums with anything and everything – anything that remotely resembles a drum and drumsticks turns any moment into a mini concert. And he’s pretty good. Just very loud. He has a little guitar that he plays every day and sings at the top of his lungs. He makes up funny songs about being put in time out and wearing his underwear on his head.

Illy is such a girly girl. She loves anything that is sparkly, pink, kittens, or stickers. She also isn’t afraid to get dirty or play with the boys. At the end of the day, she usually has dirt or glitter all over her sparkly dress and her hair is a mess, with a big grin on her face. She is truly kindhearted. I used to think she was going to be really shy, but she is just cautious and careful. She didn’t walk on her own without holding onto our hands until she was 17 months, but one day Grandma caught her practicing walking in her pack and play when she thought no one was watching. She had been holding out on us! Once she feels confident at something, nothing can stop her. She is always doing a craft. I check on her sometimes at night and she is out of bed, cutting up paper and taping it together into a treasure box or some other creation. She has her artwork taped all over her walls.

Eric is one of the most genuine men that I know. He truly cares about other people and works hard to have deep, meaningful relationships. He takes on a lot of the household work and tries to balance work and family and relationships. He is selfless in so many ways. I fell in love with him because he is such a good listener. When you’re talking to him, you feel like you are the most important person in the world at that moment.

I am very introverted, but also value relationships. I was raised by a single mother. She worked hard, but we really didn’t have a lot. We lived in pretty rundown rental houses. Even as a child, I tried to decorate, paint, and make things pretty. I dreamed of living in my own home someday with the freedom to make the space the way I wanted it. I even remember designing rooms and houses when I was very young. Of course, my designs included indoor slides and swing sets, too! I also dreamed of being a doctor. Even at the age of 11, I knew that was how I wanted to help people. It’s amazing to me now that I never doubted that I could achieve this dream, even with no way to afford college, let alone medical school.

Eric and I met in college at a ballroom dance. We were both such nerds! I was taking a swing dance class. He taught me to waltz and we ended up talking more than dancing. We both wanted to be doctors, and saw this as a calling and not just a career. I left the dance early and he didn’t know who I was – just my first name! He spent several weeks trying to track me down. Long story short, he eventually did find me, and we slowly became best friends. Then one day I realized that he was the one person that I wanted to do life with. I think he always had a crush on me, but I was a little slower to fall in love.

You won’t want to miss a sentence! I promise!

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Question: 30 minutes till guests arrive and the house is a mess. What do you clean first? Click through for my list.

Photos and text by Gabrielle.This post is sponsored by Clorox—helping you clean on the go for a happier home.

Last week, as the family was cleaning up after dinner, I posed this question to Ben Blair and the kids: If guests are arriving in 30 minutes, and the house is a complete mess, what would you clean first? It’s a simple question, and a scenario that we’ve all lived through multiple times, but it was funny to hear everyone’s answers because we all had a different list!

Obviously, answers can depend on context — are these guests staying overnight? coming for dinner? stopping by for a playdate? So for our imaginary scenario, we decided the guests were first time visitors, who are only staying for a couple of hours. The visit isn’t during a meal time, and they might want a house tour. You’ve got 30 mins to clean up. What do you do?

Here’s my list:

First, I’d spend 7 minutes or so putting dishes in the sink and wiping down the kitchen counters and kitchen table. I figure no one wants to see the remains of lunch on display. Note: I wouldn’t actually do the dishes — as long as they’re in the sink and the counters are wiped, I would move on to other tasks.

Next, I’d spend another 7 minutes clearing clutter on the flat surfaces in the living room and entry — sofas, coffee table, benches, etc., The kind of clutter I’m thinking of is paper stuff like homework, mail or catalogs, and also things like tools from the shed that are waiting to be put away, or a stray pair of shoes. I would focus on the paper first, because putting loose paper away makes a huge impact.

Then, I’d spend about 5 minutes focusing on the coffee table. I’d start with dusting the coffee table itself, plus anything on the coffee table, because picking up an interesting book or conversational object and realizing it has left a layer of dust on your hand is gross. (Shout out to my dusting fave Clorox® Triple Action Dust Wipes!) Then I’d choose books to display that I think our guests would like.

Question: 30 minutes till guests arrive and the house is a mess. What do you clean first? Click through for my list.

After dusting, I’d spend 2 minutes on the sofas. I’d plump the pillows and tidy the throw blankets. If anything needs a cleaning, I’d send it to the laundry room.

Then I’d stop by the bathroom most likely to be used by visitors, and do a two-minute tidy. Hang any wet towels, wipe counters, make sure there’s a clean hand towel accessible, and that the toilet paper is stocked.

Next, I’d spend two minutes on the porch and front walkway. Is everything welcoming? Is there a clear path?

Then the remaining time would go to sweeping the floors. And if I have 2 minutes left, I’d also spot clean the floor with a wet rag.

If I have kids to help, I’d send them to work on bedroom essentials: makes beds, and put dirty clothes in the hamper. Then take out any garbage, recycling and compost in the house, or start on actually doing the dishes.

The play room and family office would be ignored, because I can use the excuse they’re sort of supposed to be messy — it means good things are happening. : )

So that’s it. In 30 minutes, I feel like I can get the house fairly decent. I first asked the question just making conversation with my family, but it ended up being a good reminder to me, that it doesn’t have to take all day to get the house tidy. Even 30 minutes can make a big difference!

Now it’s your turn. I’m curious about what would make your last-minute tidy list? Is yours similar to mine? Would you switch the order? Or maybe prioritize tasks like window cleaning or vacuuming? Do you know exactly what you’d tackle first? Or perhaps your house is generally clean 24/7 so you can’t really relate to this scenario? Or, maybe your house is happily messy and you’re fine to bring guests no matter what? I’d love to hear!

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I was delighted to partner with Clorox on this post, because lately, my go-to dusting tool has been Clorox® Triple Action Dust Wipes. Have you tried them? I like their dust wipes because they’re super easy to use, and they work on pretty much every surface in my home — like furniture, electronics, and floors. Plus, they’re effective, so they help us fight allergies — a non-stop battle since our home is surrounded by trees.

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School Update

May 26, 2015

Ralph & Maude What to Wear 2014-1503

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

Here we are, finishing up another school year. We still have 3 weeks to go — our last day of school is June 12th. (Side note: School after Memorial Day always seems so challenging to me — it feels like summer vacation should start now!). June will be going to Kindergarten next year. Betty will go to 4th grade. Oscar to 5th grade. Olive will go to 8th grade. Maude will be a junior in high school. And Ralph was going to start his senior year. He was. But instead: he’s offically done with high school!

This came as quite a surprise to us. Here’s how it happened.

You may remember he spent his Freshman year in France attending a local French school. And he spent the first half of this school year (his Junior year) in France as well, enrolled in California Virtual Academy (which is a K12 online school). He arrived home for Christmas, and then went to Haiti with Ben Blair in January. When he got home from Haiti, we asked him if he wanted to continue doing online school, or re-enroll in the same high school he attended his sophomore year (the same school Maude attends). But he surprised us by saying he wanted to finish high school early.

Keep reading. Lots more ahead!

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A Few Things

May 22, 2015

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Oh my goodness. What a strange week this was for me blogging-wise. I’m sort of stunned it’s already Friday. I was traveling on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday — Tuesday night was my last officially scheduled book tour stop. And when I got home on Wednesday, I could totally feel myself shut down. I imagine I was holding myself together till my tour commitments were done, but when I finished, I think I officially hit some sort of exhaustion wall. Oh my! (Side note, yes, there will likely be future book stops, but for now I’m taking a break.)

This morning, as I wrote this post, I realized it’s only my 3rd blog post this week, and I was completely surprised! I’m not sure if I’ve ever published so few blog posts over a week in my almost 9 years of blogging. If nothing else, it’s definitely a rarity. It feels strange to me. And stranger still because I feel like there is so much I want to talk with you about! I’ve been meeting readers all over the country and want to report, our cottage in France is on my mind and I’m long overdue to tell you more about it, we’re wrapping up another Oakland public school year, I had all sorts of emotions come up when visiting Denver that I want to discuss with you, summer plans are in the works, and Alt Summer is coming up fast!

But this weekend, I will be completely content if I can do absolutely nothing. Holding still sounds perfect to me. : ) So before I begin doing nothing, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

- 100 years of beauty. Super sweet.

- From the Onion — the pros and cons of raising the minimum wage.

- Jimmy Kimmel’s tribute to David Letterman. I totally teared up.

- My daughter Maude sent me this link and it blew my mind — the total area of solar panels it would take to power the world.

Gravity glue.

- What it’s like to have your child diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Thanks, Julie.

- Burgers and drought.

- Oakland pride!

- Strong opinions about flip-flops. You too?

- Striking up your grill this weekend? Check out this grilling guide, this picnic guide, and this lemonade 101 guide.

I hope you have a wonderful (long!) weekend. I’ll meet you back here next week. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — Are you doing anything to mark Memorial Day? I think our best Memorial Days were in France — it was such an honor to visit the American Military Cemetery that overlooks the D-Day beaches. Have you ever been?

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By Gabrielle. Nostalgic photo of big-sister Betty meeting baby Flora June (who turned FIVE last week!).

I originally posted Jenny’s first birth story way back in 2011, so it’s really a lovely feeling to welcome her back with another! She experienced a completely different type of birth the second time around, so this is nowhere near the same story, second verse same as the first! For her first delivery, she was adamant on a natural birth. This time? Why not try an epidural? I love how easy she was on herself.

It’s fascinating to me how we place all these expectations on ourselves to somehow conquer a multitude of personal goals when it comes to the birthing process. Delivering a baby is tough enough, wouldn’t you say? I would, too! Please enjoy Jenny’s words and sweet experience. Even if you’re not having a baby anytime soon, it’s pretty wonderful advice.

Welcome, Jenny!

My second pregnancy and birth experience was a complete 180 from my first. I’m honored to have my son Nolan’s birth story featured on Design Mom, and when I reread it before sitting down to write this one, I was reminded what a difference a few years make.

Jenny’s sweet story, just ahead!

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Kelsey Gerhard.

At some point during my correspondence with Jessica, she mentioned that her primary goal wasn’t to have her home tour published on Design Mom. Well, it was probably one of the reasons why she asked her friend, Kelsey, to take the photos in the first place, but eventually she realized she simply wanted to record this time in her family’s life. Her house is just growing out of the babyhood stage, most of their furnishing are inherited or found, and the family is set to embark on a one or two year adventure in England.

Everything is about to change in the matter of a few weeks, but Jessica learned – somewhere between the photo shoot and her interview – that this moment should be remembered. The house, the decor, the little puppy scratches by the back door…it’s not all perfect, but it’s perfect to them. Such a wonderful reminder, isn’t it?

Please help me welcome Jessica!

Hello, everyone! I’m so happy to share my home with you today! My husband Matt and I live here with our four children, our fat, snuggly old cat, and our two year old puppy.

Matt and I both enlisted in the Army after graduating from college and were stationed at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. We met in January 2003, started dating in June, got engaged in July, and got married in December. After we got married, we had four kids in about five and a half years, so our life together has been jam-packed from the very beginning.

I am the Communications Manager for a non-profit called the Officer Down Memorial Page, which is basically my dream job. I also started my blog about a year and a half ago, and I love it – writing is my favorite thing, so blogging really makes me happy. In my free time, I love to read, work out, play with my kids, and hang out with my husband. Not necessarily in that order! And I love to travel.

Now that our kids are old enough that travel is suddenly far less complicated and way more fun, we’re hoping to really embrace that and travel a lot more in the near future.

Matt is a consultant for a government contracting firm. He’s funny and smart and a super-involved dad, which makes my job as a mom so much easier and more rewarding. He makes me the best version of myself, and hopefully I do the same for him. I like him a lot.

Bridget, our ten year old daughter, is intelligent, dramatic, witty, impatient, thoughtful, and funny. She loves sports of all kinds and she is also very, very into theater and photography. She has a creative soul. Her little brothers might refer to her as bossy, but I prefer to say she knows how to take charge of a situation and has great leadership skills. I pretty much think she’s awesome.

Gabriel is eight, and is my most physical and snuggly child. He wears all his emotions on his sleeve and just completely interprets the world around him through touch. He is friendly and outgoing and loves hanging out with his friends. Gabe is an excellent athlete and would gladly stay outside playing baseball, football, hockey, swimming, riding bikes, skateboarding, and generally being active all day, every day. Sitting still is not really his thing.

Owen, my six year old, is a thinker and an observer. He is my most determined child; he just does not give up at something he wants to do until he is successful. It’s a beautiful characteristic when he’s trying to learn to ride a bike or throw a fastball, but it’s slightly less admirable when he turns his determination against me, like when it’s time for bed. He is also very athletic and we haven’t yet found a sport he can’t master. He’s fun to watch.

Quinn turned five this week, but he is and always will be my baby. He is the happiest and friendliest kid I know. He has never met a person or an animal he didn’t like. Like his siblings, he also loves sports. He is my partner for grocery shopping, running errands, gym visits, and all the other day-to-day things I have to get done, and he’s a rock star for all of it. I’m lucky I get to hang out with him all day, and I will be really lonely when he heads to kindergarten in the Fall.

We moved to the D.C. area almost ten years ago when Matt got out of the Army; he got a great job offer here and that was basically the deciding factor. When we first arrived, we just wanted to settle down after having moved around A LOT in the Army, but there just weren’t a ton of single family homes in our price range that didn’t need major updating. We looked at so many houses, but felt like they all needed too much work to really be what we wanted.

More wisdom and wonderful views, just ahead!

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A Few Things

May 15, 2015

Peonies

Photo and text by Gabrielle. Ben Blair had these gorgeous peonies waiting for me when I got home last weekend.

Hello, Friends! How are you? Did you have a good week? I had a great one — nothing in particular happened, I was just home, and had a normal schedule, and after so much work travel it was heavenly. : ) Speaking of work travel, I’ve got book parties in Houston on Monday and Denver on Tuesday (details here), and then I’m taking a break from my book tour for awhile. It’s time to turn my attention toward Summer plans!

Our school doesn’t let out till June, but I’m already counting down the days till summer. I think it’s going to be a good one! The thing we’re most excited about? Our nephew, Josh (the one who built our giant table), is all grown up and married now. And he and his wonderful wife are going to come and stay for a bit. Josh offered to help Ben Blair build some platforms and zip-lines in our trees! Ben has been dreaming and scheming about this since we moved in, and the whole family is super excited.

Are you already making summer plans? I’ll bet school ends for some of you next week! (Or maybe even this week!)

My big task for today is to make some headway on my inbox. So I’m going to sign off, but before I go, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- Have you posted a “strengthie” yet? In support of ONE.org’s Poverty is Sexist campaign, people everywhere are posting “strengthies” — a selfie where you reimagine the Rose the Riveter post and share it with the hashtag #withstronggirls. Malala did it. Shonda Rhimes did it. You can do it too!

-  The audacity of Cinderella.

City Council training in Austin on “how to deal with women”.

- Would you qualify to live at Silicon Valley’s Startup Castle? (I would not.)

- Just got my first Causebox. It’s a box of socially conscious women’s products. There’s a new box each season. Such a cool gift!

- The real price of mani-pedisThanks, Giulia.

- One of my dear friends just launched a tech kickstarter. His creation turns any helmet into headphones (think: skiing, cycling, etc.) Now you can answer phonecalls or play music without in-ear buds. I can think of a dozen teens in my life who would need this. Very cool!

- John Oliver’s Mother’s Day Program (FYI: he swears a bunch).

- Remember when I was in New York for HomeGoods event? Here’s more on the colorful family room I created while there — blog post and video.

- Is busy the new black?

- Such a cool project by Darcy Miller. I’m totally going to copy this.

- The One Room Challenge is wrapping up. Find links to the before and afters here. (Do you know about this? Designers take 6 weeks and makeover one room.)

- Indiana Jones giant boulder scene in real life.

I hope you have a terrific weekend. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Hideaki Hamada, a Japanese photographer based in Osaka, for Tea Collection.

Have you received a Tea Collection catalog this month? Mine came yesterday, and I read it cover to cover, in total bliss. That’s not my typical reaction to catalogs, but this particular Tea Collection issue is different. It’s like reading a travelogue from a dear friend, but with much better photography. : )

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As you may already know, a design team from Tea Collection travels the globe every six months to gather inspiration for each new collection. Usually they only travel to each destination once, but this season, they made a very special second trip back to India with designer and founder, Emily, and her family! She traveled with her husband Hilton, their children, Clement (age 6) and Georgia (age 4), and with Emily’s adventurous mother as well.

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Their travels took place in and around Jaipur while the family stayed at The Farm, an incredible boutique hotel. The whole trip was shot as an editorial — capturing the reality of traveling with little ones to far away places — and then published as Tea’s May catalog. The pictures are truly stunning. They make me want to pack our bags asap and head off on a family adventure.

Don’t miss the gorgeous catalog. Oh and while you’re reading it, keep in mind that each item purchased from the May catalog gives back to Gram Bharati Samiti — a society for rural development in India.

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For today’s giveaway, the prize is inspired by Emily’s family trip to India. And it’s a big prize. You could win 1) A Tea Collection wardrobe set, up to $150 value, and 2) A hardcover Artifact Uprising Photo Book, plus one signature print. Because what do you do with all of the pictures you’ve taken after a trip? You make a photo book of course!

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But beyond this giveaway, there’s an even bigger opportunity. You could win a trip for four to India!! Tea Collection is hosting a campaign called #MakingTheForeignFamiliar. After just a few days in India, Emily could see that what was once foreign to her kids, was now welcome and familiar and something they looked forward to. Such an important thing for kids to understand as we raise our little global citizens!

So Tea Collection is partnering with AFAR, Artifact Uprising, Flight001 and The Farm boutique hotel — and for the month of May, they’re running a contest and awarding one family of four a trip to Jaipur! Oh my goodness. Wouldn’t that be amazing? I would LOVE to take my family to India. You should totally enter! You can find the trip contest details here.

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Now back to today’s giveaway. As a reminder, the prize is 1) A Tea Collection wardrobe set, up to $150 value, and 2) A hardcover Artifact Uprising Photo Book, plus one signature print. To enter, visit Tea Collection and leave a comment below — I’d love to hear what your favorite piece of clothing is from the trip. The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

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Liz P is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing.

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Rude Cakes

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

It’s time for another Picture Book post! I’ve got four good ones for you today. First up, Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins, a Brooklyn-based author who probably wins the prize for coolest name of a person.

I had my oldest daughter Maude read this book to see if she agreed it was a keeper. She confessed she expected to be annoyed by it, but then ended up loving it! It’s really good. It’s packed with hilarious details and grin-bringing surprises — and it works in a lovely message, too.

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You could use this book as a good starting point for a conversation about manners, or even bullying.

Interstellar Cinderella - a futuristic, more bad-ass version of the fairytale

Next up, Interstellar Cinderella, which sounds like it might make a good tongue-twister. It’s written by Deborah Underwood, and illustrated by Meg Hunt.

Does Cinderella really need another re-telling? Heck yes! It’s a best-loved fairytale for a reason. This version features a mechanical-minded, independent Heroine who manages to save the Prince on her way to the ball.

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This heroine is someone a modern girl can root for. Oh, and did I mention the whole thing rhymes? You’ll love it!

Click through for two more books!

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Seedling Craft Kits

May 12, 2015

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Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is sponsored by Seedling. Find a 25% off discount code below. Build, imagine, play!

I’m so excited to be working with Seedling today! I have been reading about them over the last few months, and was delighted when they reached out. Seedling creates really cool project kits for kids — the kind of kits you’d totally want in the cupboard when summer boredom kicks in, or when a rainy day surprises you. Founded in New Zealand and recently expanded to Los Angeles, their products are imagined in both places. I ordered four different kits so I could get to know them, and I’m impressed!

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What I noticed first were the unusual kit topics, like Make Your Own Pinata, Pirate Peg People, and Invent Your Own Insects. And the next thing I noticed was the great-looking packaging. In fact, I remember thinking you could tie a bow on any of the kits and they would make an excellent birthday gift.

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There are TONS of projects available based on categories like Science & Nature, Arts & Crafts, Imaginative Play, and Dinosaurs & Rocks. You can search by category, by age, or by price. Seedling knows all about the importance of growing our children’s imaginations, so kids are invited to use their own initiative at every stage of the activity or kit, from the materials they’ll use to the ways they’ll play with it.

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Oscar tried the Let’s Rock! Geode Kit. Since it was loud and messy and involved wearing goggles, there’s no surprise it was a big hit with this 10-year-old! And I loved it because my Grandpa Ralph used to polish stones and cut geodes as a hobby. I thought it was cool that Oscar was being introduced to an activity that connects him to earlier generations.

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Betty worked on the Butterfly Wings. The wings are a particularly good project for more than one kid to work on, because you can spread them out and make space for lots of hands and markers. And it’s the kind of project you can come back to over a week or two — there’s no need to rush through it. Best of all, the wings will make a fun addition to our dress-up collection.

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Seedling’s mission is to create beautiful, innovative products for families, and to celebrate the parenting journey by making it a little bit easier and a lot more fun. I love that sentiment! I know Seedling is new to many of you, and I hope you’ll find it as I helpful as I did.

Would you like to try Seedling for yourself? Here’s a discount just for you: Enjoy 25% off at seedling.com when you choose your own adventure using the code SEEDLINGDESIGN. (Offer valid one per customer; discount does not apply to past purchases, packaging, applicable taxes, or shipping and handling. Expires May 24, 2015 at 11:59 pm PST.)

Happy making!

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Andrea Reisfeld and Saxton Freymann.

Mia owns a super cute boutique toy company on the Upper West Side of New York. It began in the basement of the building where she still lives, but now is found just down the street. Once a renovated ballroom that at one point was a Japanese tea room full of flea market finds, Chinese art deco, rugs, sky lights, and school house lighting, it’s pretty magnificent. (Especially the bathroom converted to become her son’s room! See if you can spot the tiling and leftover soap bed!)

The photographs she submitted were a jumble of old memories and current – how her home looked in the thick of of having three kids under four years old, and how lovely and quiet and clean it looks today, and every stage in between – and I wasn’t sure which ones to share. You see, her kids are older, off to college and other adventures, so sharing the older images might not make contextual sense. But then I thought, “Hey. This is what it’s all about! Learning from each other how to live as well as we possibly can with our children!” Mia has a goldmine of experience on this topic, and most of the important stuff happened years ago.

I went with the shots that inspired me: crafts at the kitchen table, stuffed sleepovers, working in the basement from 9:00 pm until 2:00 am, and room for one more. So if you see a shot of a young one climbing on a chair in front of a grand window, know that he is at University now, and know that probably every single detail in that photo is missed terribly today.

Yes, it took a lot of hard work and sleepless nights and sacrifice – you will smile when you hear how they communicated before mobile phones and FaceTime! – but she has zero regrets about how she lived with her kids. That is a result I wish for us all! Welcome, Mia!

Hello! I’m Mia Galison. I’ve been married to artist Saxton Freymann for 25 years. Sax wrote and illustrated the Play with Your Food book series, and he currently works on his artwork when he isn’t developing games or illustrating for eeBoo.

We had Eyck, (named for the Flemish artist) in 1994, and less than two years later we had twins, Elodie and Finn.

Sax and I share an enormous and glorious studio space that used to be a Japanese Tea House on Manhattan’s Upper West side. I work upstairs with the eeBoo staff and he works downstairs, in what used to be a beautifully tiled kitchen. He is a great husband who is always happy to spend the day at a flea market with me and talk over projects even in the middle of the night.

This home – then and now – is so wonderful! Come see!

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A Few Things

May 8, 2015

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Photo and image by Gabrielle. I’ve been traveling across the country with this giant bag of cereal. Why? Story here.

Hello Friends! How are you? I’m writing this from Atlanta, but I’m about to head to the airport. I’m on my way back to California today!! Oh my goodness. I CAN NOT WAIT to see my family. It’s all I can think about at the moment. And we happen to be heading into a very exciting weekend for my family — there are birthdays, Mother’s Day, Prom, and just regular life that I’ve missed so much!

Oh, and tomorrow, the family will be heading to the last of the four Pottery Barn Book Parties. If you’re in the Bay Area, you should totally join us. Here are the details: On Saturday, May 9th, I’ll be at the Pottery Barn in Corte Madera, from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM. (Address: 1822 Redwood Hwy, Corte Madera, CA.)

My amazing sister, Jordan of Oh Happy Day, will be there, and my amazing sister-in-law, Liz of Say Yes, will be there too. Expect refreshments and special cookies, a Q&A, book signing, and crafting. The event is FREE and you don’t need to RSVP. It will be so fun to have my family there with me! And I look forward to meeting you.

I’d better finish packing, but before I go, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- How teens can become millionaires.

- So funny. Also makes me sigh from exasperation. Ask your doctor if you need birth control.

- Illustrating real love. Thoughts? Is this what love looks like to you?

- 7 habits of people who don’t stress over the little things.

- Joss & Main Sale inspired by my book — with a proceed for Every Mother Counts.

- Teenaged feminism.

- Best news! The Queso relaunched.

- Jack Black & Jimmy Fallon. (Class of ’92 peeps, are you feeling it?)

- A conversation with Anna Wintour.

- Corruption in America explained.

I hope you have a fantastic weekend. Every year, when Mother’s Day comes around, there are a whole lot of people who get discouraged or depressed for any number of reasons. I totally get that. If you’re at risk for either, I hope you’ll buy yourself some flowers or chocolates or whatever you love, so that you have something wonderful to enjoy on Sunday. I’ll be thinking of you.

And hey, maybe I’ll see some of you at Pottery Barn tomorrow! Either way, I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — Does anyone else think of sugar cereal as comfort food?

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By Gabrielle.

When Beth first wrote to me, she mentioned that she might not resemble my typical reader. After getting to know her better these last few weeks, I sure hope she’s wrong; I would love a hundred Beths adding their smart voices to my pages!

Beth is a college student – ahh, remember those days? – and I jumped at the chance to follow her through her day. She has advice on choosing a college, positive assurances for all your stressed high-schoolers about grades and test scores, and concrete ways to overcome homesickness and other difficulties when you’re far away from family, not to mention it’s simply great fun to see this professional-in-training before she embarks on her chosen career. If you ever wanted a glimpse into a young adult’s college life, here it is. Welcome, Beth!

Hi everyone! I’m a junior at Elmira College. I’m a childhood education (elementary) major with a concentration in visual and performing arts. My days this term are spent student teaching in a first grade classroom.

All students are required to live on campus all four years, so I live in an on-campus dorm. I’m currently student teaching about half an hour away, so I have to get up pretty early around 5:30. I really dislike getting up before the sun rises, so it usually takes me a few minutes to get out of bed!

More college life, straight ahead!

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Oh Happy Day Shop!

May 6, 2015

FANS

By Gabrielle. Images via Oh Happy Day Store.

Did you see my sister Jordan’s new shop? It’s so well done! Like really, really good. It stocks party supplies and paper goods from all over the world. There are hundreds and hundreds of items — many of them virtually impossible to find anywhere else in the States. The site is beautiful and easy to navigate, with fun features like searching by color.

I have high expectations for anything Jordan takes on because she is amazing, but this shop is even better than I imagined. If you already read Jordan’s blog (her new blog design was revealed yesterday!), you know she has impeccable taste, a great eye, and endless brilliant ideas. In fact, she planned and decorated my Oakland book launch in less than twenty-four hours, and it included spectacular decorations, and a giant 3-D version of my book. And she pulled it off after being out of town for 10 days! I’m telling you, she’s amazing. And oh man, she worked her fanny off making this shop launch happen. I’m having a total big-sister pride moment just thinking about it. Go Jordan!

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Definitely take a look at the new shop, and then bookmark or pin your favorites so you’ll be ready for your next gathering. In fact, while you’re at it, I highly recommend stock-piling some party supply basics so that you can put together a last-minute event in a snap.

If you rarely shop for party supplies, this new store may not seem unusual to you, but for those of us who have hunted down speciality balloons from obscure sources, called shop after shop looking for a particular tissue garland, and managed to track down distinctive birthday candles while we’re traveling halfway around the world, the Oh Happy Day Store is a life-saver and total breath of fresh air!

Do you have siblings or besties that are working on cool projects? I’d love to hear!

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By Gabrielle.

I am a big fan of families who not only make a smaller space work, but actually thrive in it. (I think I’ve told you this before!) There’s often so much more to living with kids than the house itself, right? Spacious, cozy, or somewhere in between, much of the goodness comes from what’s outside the front door.

And the way Sophie describes it, Phoenix has a lot to offer (I spent half of last week in Phoenix, and I agree!). Like the weather. For those who live in a cold climate, Phoenicians’ winters are definitely enviable. It’s the summers that keep families inside and hiding from the 110 degree heat! And it’s then that the smallness gets to Sophie. How does she deal? I’ll let her tell you! Welcome, Sophie!

Hi, everyone! My name is Sophie. I’m married to a totally awesome guy named Mike, and together we have three daughters: Ava, Perla, and Zosia.

Mike and I are both native Phoenicians, which seems to be mind-boggling to many people here. Lots of natives leave, while many non-natives relocate here. I used to be one of the people who couldn’t wait to leave, but over the years I’ve come to develop a true love for our city and state. Anyway, we were both born in the same hospital, which we now live a block away from. Sometimes I feel silly admitting that, but the hospital itself is somewhat of a landmark with some unique architecture, so it’s fun looking out our dining room window and seeing the place where we both started. We also live half a mile from the high school I attended. Another one of those things I’m not sure I should admit or not! Ha!

Phoenix often gets a really bad rap for being nothing more than a suburban wasteland, and that can’t be farther from the truth. While, yes, a large majority of the city is indeed suburban, the area in which we live is rich with cultural diversity. We live in a historic neighborhood in the downtown central area, where local businesses reign and true community exists. Our neighbors are some of the friendliest, kindest, most generous people you will ever meet. The market up the street knows us by name and treats my girls to lollipops every time we’re in.

We’re a three block walk from award-winning dining, a ten minute walk to our famous local library, the Phoenix Art Museum, several wonderful playgrounds, and our favorite neighborhood cafe. Just a few blocks from us is a glass studio that hosts live glass blowing performances during downtown’s First Friday Art Walk. Ten minutes on a bike will land you at the Children’s Museum, Symphony Hall, the Science Center, Chase Field Ballpark, or Saturday’s open air Farmer’s Market. We can see Piestewa Peak from our living room, watch airplanes flying into the airport, and can walk across the street to the public pool. It is truly a dream.

There’s just so much this city has to offer. And beyond the city are all of the other wonderful things Arizona has to offer. Surrounding us is the breathtakingly beautiful desert, with its blooming cactus, stunning sunsets, and late-summer monsoons. Mountains that offer the perfect day hike. Two hours north you’re in the forest, with much cooler temperatures and snow in the winter. And just beyond that is the Grand Canyon! There’s just so much beauty in our state it’s hard not to fall in love with it.

Although Mike and I were born in the same hospital, our paths didn’t cross until many years later when we worked together as baristas in the same cafe. It was an almost instantaneous connection; we were married less than 18 months later! We’ve been married seven years, over the course of which I’ve realized we make a pretty perfect match. Mike is level-headed and slow to speak, whereas I’m more hot tempered and I definitely speak too quickly. He loves coming home from work and taking over so that I can have a break. I fold the laundry, he puts it away. We make each other laugh every day. The mutual balance we’ve achieved is something I’ve really become so thankful for in our marriage.

More from Sophie, straight ahead!

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